Fernando Alonso secured his inaugural rally raid podium with Toyota Gazoo Racing following an excellent performance in the 2019 Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally in Saudi Arabia last weekend
It was Alonso’s and co-driver, Marc Coma‘s, third outing in a rally raid competition together.
The two-time Formula One champion stayed out of trouble on the opening day and decided to push his brand-new Toyota Hilux. He suffered a puncture on the penultimate day, losing two and a half minutes as a result.
Despite the challenges of unfamiliar territory and still learning the car, Alonso and Coma showed strong pace over the course of the penultimate stage to bring their Hilux back home third-fastest overall and losing just 17 seconds to the leader after approximately 180 kilometres of racing.
Going into the final day, the Spanish duo were 4th overall following a late retirement overnight. They were able to secure the final podium spot with consistent pace throughout the day despite some time loss due to inaccurate road books and tricky navigation.
Alonso said: “The final stage was a difficult one, full of rocks and difficult navigation. But we had no real issues, and we finished third on the stage and third overall, which is quite a good result for us.
“This is our first even podium in rally raid, and I’m very happy with that. Overall we had four good days in Saudi Arabia.”
Even though, Alonso and Coma have very little rally experience, they seem to be on an exponential curve and are already reaching a highly competitive level as they transition into a new motorsport discipline.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal of Toyota’s Rally Raid team, added: “Fernando and Marc showed great pace this week, and I’m happy that they are progressing according to our plan. We had a strategy for this race, and it worked out perfectly for them.
“They raced a brand-new car here, which is earmarked for the Dakar Rally, so they had to balance their pace with the need to preserve the car.
“In the end, they achieved a maiden podium against local crews who know the terrain very well, which bodes well for January’s Dakar Rally.
“It was also interesting for us to experience Saudi Arabia first-hand and gain some insight for the big race in the New Year.”
With under two months to go before the Dakar Rally, Fernando and Marc will continue private testing before joining their Toyota Gazoo Racing teammates in Saudi Arabia in January, 2020 for the Dakar Rally.